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Zach Frazer gets it done late for UConn

Before the season began, Connecticut quarterback Zach Frazer wrote out his goals. The highlights included beating Pittsburgh and West Virginia, winning a Big East title and making a BCS game.

"There's only one thing left to cross off," he said.

Frazer, though, probably couldn't have scripted how the season would go for him. Or maybe he could have, if he had just remembered his history.

Call him The Closer. Zach Frazer just wins (in November).

This is the second straight season that the quarterback struggled early, lost his job and then led the team on a late-season surge. There was a bit more turmoil involved this time, however.

Frazer looked poised for a big year this offseason, but the team started off just 1-2 with him at the helm as the offense sputtered. He was benched just before halftime against Buffalo for backup Cody Endres, and the Huskies' passing game immediately improved. Endres took over full time, and Frazer was bumped all the way down to third string behind redshirt freshman Michael Box.

As a fifth-year senior who's been through many ups and downs, Frazer could have given up or moped around after the demotion. He didn't.

"I prepared like I was still playing," he said. "I met with our offensive coordinator and coach [Randy] Edsall and flat-out asked them what I could do to get back out on the field and improve my game. I knew if there was another opportunity, I wasn't going to let it slip away."

He knew from experience how volatile the Huskies' quarterback situation could be. He and Endres flip-flopped as starters in 2008 when Tyler Lorenzen got hurt. Frazer opened 2009 as the starter before getting hurt and giving way to Endres, then reclaimed the job after a season-ending injury to Endres.

Endres knocked himself out this time, earning a dismissal for a repeated failed drug test just before the Louisville game. Box started that week and struggled as UConn lost 26-0. Frazer came in late and briefly gave the offense a spark, and Edsall reinstalled him for the next week. UConn is 4-0 since.

Here is the part in these kinds of stories where you present the stark statistical differences in a player's performance to illustrate the turnaround. The numbers, though, don't really show it. In the three-and-a-half games before his demotion, Frazer completed 51.7 percent of his passes for 554 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Since his return, he has completed 55.9 percent for 537 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Connecticut continues to defy logic by winning without much of a passing game. The Huskies average just 148.1 passing yards per game, last in the Big East and 113th nationally. In conference games, they've produced just 120.8 yards through the air on average. The only teams in the country throwing for fewer yards than that are all option-based teams.

Still, Frazer threw two touchdown passes in the Pittsburgh game, and Edsall says his quarterback is making all the right checks and decisions. He just has to manage the game, not make mistakes and take advantage of a few opportunities while letting the powerful UConn running game do the rest.

"He finds a way to win," Edsall said. "It might not look as pretty as what some people would want it to look like, but he gets the job done."

Edsall said earlier this year he thought Frazer was trying too hard not to make mistakes. Now, Frazer is playing relaxed and enjoying himself as only a man given a second chance can do.

Make that a third or fourth or fifth chance. Frazer was a big-time recruit out of high school who began his career at Notre Dame with visions of leading his team to major bowl games. He is close to reaching that goal now after some unusual twists and turns.

"It's been a wild ride," he said. "But I wouldn't change any of it. I've learned through this whole process that you've just got to hang in there."